Progress

Progress

It’s hard to tell when you’re making any kind of progress when it comes to mindset. It’s such a vague concept – one of those “feeling” things – we can never be sure where we actually are on the scoreboard on any given day.

How do I know if I’m getting better? Should I see if I feel happier? Maybe it’s the number of friends I have or the opportunities? Maybe Facebook has the answer, buried somewhere deep in their algorithm, where they can analyse my updates and tell me that, year on year, I’m 2.6% more positive than I was this time last year?

I’m not sure.

Even when I DO feel like I have a handle on things, I have sudden periods of worry. Today, for example, was the day I decided to post about writing funny words for people (I’ll put a link to the post in the comments – not as an advert, but so you can see what I was uptight about).

I’ve been anxious about making this post for a while, despite talking to others and having my hand gentled caressed by Jon, and others (though no-one caressed me quite like Jon).

Before I posted, I went on a dog walk and my mind was turning over all the terrible things that made me nervous about clicking the big, scary, blue “post” button:

  • What if no one takes me up on it?
  • What if someone takes the piss?
  • What if someone takes offence or disagrees with me doing it?

Each of these is pretty easy to deal with while out in the countryside, desperately trying to avoid eye contact with other people and dodging dog muck.

But really, what’s the worst that could happen?

  • If no one takes me up on it, that’s OK. I can repost it in the future, or amend the offer. No biggie.
  • If someone takes the piss, that’s fine. I do magic and comedy for drunk people for a living – I’ve heard EVERYTHING anyone on the planet could ever think of. Plus, I’ve had it said, shouted and spat RIGHT TO MY FACE, which is emotionally far worse than having it displayed in a readable 12 point font on my dusty laptop screen.
  • If someone disagrees, that’s OK too, because I’m not claiming to be the best in the world at anything, nor the funniest. I’m not standing on a pedestal (I’m sat on a chair at my kitchen table eating a doughnut), so I can’t fall far. I’m just trying to see if I can help people.

It made me realise that stepping out of our comfort zone can sometimes feel like we’re taking a mental step back – we feel worse before we feel any better.

Stepping out of your comfort zone exaggerates a lot of the negative mindset stuff – anxiety, worry and feelings of negativity for example and I think the danger for me is mistaking this increase in negative symptoms as a backwards step, weakness or a lack of progress.

It’s not.

When I worked in mental health, I came to realise that one of the more challenging times for a depressed patient was when they first started to turn the corner and get better.

When you’re at rock bottom, you don’t really care about anything – there’s just you and the depression. That’s it. BFFs forever.

When you start to get better though, you can see the light at the end of the tunnel. This sounds great (and it is) but there’s a massive problem – the light at the tunnel is a fucking long way away from where you are at the moment – and you know it.

Suddenly, you’re aware of the possibility of feeling better and also exactly how much shite you’re going to have to plough through to get there. I can’t imagine anything more daunting.

Some patients would get to this point and revert back, thinking the journey was too hard or impossible, so why bother?

I think this morning reminded me to try and keep the bigger picture in mind. So many times, I need to take a step back and look at it from there.

Realise that stepping out of your comfort zone is a MASSIVE win. It doesn’t matter if you feel nervous, shaky, upset or depressed afterwards – you’ve taken a BIG step forward (and that’s not some self-help, pumping you up with some false cheerleading type nonsense. Anytime you put yourself out there and step out of your comfort zone, you HAVE moved forward).

No matter how you feel, you need to (and I’m talking to myself here) remind yourself that you’ve done something to move forward. Write it down. Take a picture. Do whatever it takes to celebrate this, as it’s a big deal.

Look at the process, not the immediate result.

Today, no matter what happens, no matter what anyone says, I took a chance, made a bold(ish) move and clicked “post”. I still feel quite anxious about it, and mentally I feel worse because of it, but I feel proud of myself for having taken the chance.

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